- The U.N.'s Human Rights Council conducted a review of Venezuela
- It included 148 recommendations on human rights
- Venezuela agreed to most, but rejected 38 recommendations
- Those included suggestions on freedom of expression and judicial reform
Venezuela on Tuesday rejected a number of recommendations made by U.N. member countries as part of a human rights evaluation by the world body.
Of 148 recommendations made in the Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Venezuela accepted 95 of them, and is considering 15 more.
But it rejected 38 recommendations that touched on judicial independence, freedom of the press and protection of nongovernmental organizations.
Venezuela's vice minister of foreign affairs, Temir Porras Ponce de Leon, said that the country rejected these recommendations because they were not legitimate.
The recommendation process "saw people who came here to disguise as recommendations what are in fact groundless statements," he said, labeling the rejected suggestions "disrespectful and interfering comments."
Among the recommendations offered by other countries and rejected by Venezuela were:
--"Respect the independence of the judiciary" (United States)
--"Ensure independent, open and transparent selection procedures based on merit for judges and prosecutors" (United Kingdom)
--"Step up its efforts to guarantee freedom of expression as well as the safety of journalists in the country" (Indonesia)
Porras Ponce de Leon called these "marginal" recommendations made by "old empires."
The Human Rights Council is a U.N. body made up of 47 countries and its goal is to address human rights in all U.N. countries. Among the council's duties are a review of every U.N. member's progress on the issue of human rights. The process, known as the Universal Periodic Review, happens every four years.
Each country is assigned a "troika" of countries who lead the review effort. For Venezuela, its trio was Guatemala, Burkina Faso and the Czech Republic.
Another rejected recommendation of note was one asking Venezuela to comply with the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The court recently ruled in favor of an opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez had argued that he had been unjustly banned from running for office. The court agreed, and Lopez has surged as a top contender to challenge Chavez in next year's election, but it remains to be seen if Venezuela will abide by the ruling.
Venezuela also rejected a call to support the independent work of NGOs and to defend human rights activists in the country.
The majority of rejected recommendations were related to accusations that have been lobbed at Venezuela, but rejected by its leaders. International groups have accused Chavez of using a friendly judiciary to silence critics and the press. But Chavez maintains that there is robust freedom of expression in his country.
But, as Porras Ponce de Leon noted, Venezuela is already implementing a majority of the recommendations that it agreed with. In several cases, the recommendations it accepted sounded similar to ones it rejected.
For instance, it agreed to "support the activities of human rights defenders and independent nongovernmental organizations," as suggested by Canada. It also agreed with Brazil to strengthen the protection of human rights workers.
It also agreed to "continue to expand its legal framework for the promotion and protection of human rights," a recommendation by Indonesia.
During an earlier appearance before the council, Venezuela argued that it had five separate branches of government and noted that women headed three of those.
The Venezuelan Constitution protects freedom of expression, but those who exercise it will be responsible for that content, the country argued.
Other successes of the Venezuelan government included an increase in school enrollment of 24% between 1998 and 2010, and a social mission that has offered 24 million Venezuelans free health care, it said.
"We must make sure this is not about double standards. We must make sure there is no manipulation of the dialogue of human rights to try to crush countries who fight for their independence," Porras Ponce de Leon said.